U.S. Ski Team sends strong message in early season
The U.S. Alpine Ski Team has had a record eight athletes reach the World Cup podium for the first time in history. The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, led by W.C. sprint leader Kikkan Randall, has established itself on the World Cup circuit, earning podiums every weekend of the season including Randall’s win to open last weekend’s 7-stage Tour de Ski.
Seventeen-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin claimed her first World Cup win, becoming the third-youngest American skier to do so, and wore the Audi FIS World Cup slalom leader’s bib into last weekend’s Semmering slalom. Ted Ligety continues to establish incredible victory margins, leading the World Cup standings in giant slalom. Heather McPhie kicked off the freestyle season with back-to-back victories and the World Cup lead. Seth Wescott has been lighting up the snowboardcross world while freeskiers and snowboarders lit up early World Cups and the Dew Tour with wins.
Talk about depth: In all, 32 different athletes have been on the podium, including 20 who have won.
Kikkan Randall skied a powerful 3k freestyle prologue Dec. 29 to take a solid win in the first stage of the Tour de Ski, a grueling seven-stage race covering five venues in three countries.
After Sunday’s 9k classic, Randall sat in 14th going into Tuesday’s New Year’s Day freestyle sprint, which she won along with Finn Haagen Krogh of Norway. Randall finished more than 50 meters ahead of Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg of Norway. Another Norwegian, Heidi Weng, was third.
In the men’s race, Haagen Krogh was followed by Italy’s Federico Pellegrino and Canada’s Len Valjas at the third stage of the Tour de Ski. Valjas is the first Canadian cross-country skier to reach the men’s podium this season.
On Thursday, Olympic champion Petter Northug, Jr. of Norway took the overall lead after winning the day’s 35-kilometer free pursuit cross-country race. Northug finished second overall three of the past four years and is seeking to become the first Norwegian to win the weeklong event. He holds a 5.7-second lead.
In the 15-kilometer women’s race, three-time defending champion Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland won in 37:15.1. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden was second, 18.3 seconds behind and Therese Johaug of Norway was third.
The race ends Sunday with the traditional climb up Mount Cermis in Val di Fiemme.
At the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships on the Olympic trails at Soldier Hollow Resort, Utah, Torin Koos landed a much-anticipated seventh U.S. sprint title while Jennie Bender had her first U.S. title after winning an intense sprint to the finish over U.S. SKi Team member Sadie Bjornsen. Bender is a University of Vermont graduate now skiing for CXC Elite. More than 430 athletes from around the country are in Soldier Hollow for four days of racing during an eight-day period lasting through Tuesday.
A week after winning the first World Cup of her career, Shiffrin posted a personal best eighth in a rugged giant slalom in Semmering, Austria, last weekend. The finish vaulted her to 10th in the overall standings. Travis Ganong produced a gutsy run of downhill on one of the most gnarly tracks on tour to post a career best seventh in Bormio, Italy. Shiffrin then moved on to Munich along with Julia Mancuso and Ligety for the New Year’s Day city event.
The nighttime parallel slalom featured head-to-head racing on a shortened course at the Munich Olympic Park with both World Cup slalom and overall points on the line. None of the three Americans – Ligety, Shiffrin and Mancuso – made it past the quarterfinals at Olympic Park.
Meanwhile, Felix Neureuther of Germany rode the support of the home crowd Tuesday to win a WC parallel slalom. Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia upset overall WC leader Tina Maze of Slovenia to win the women’s race, her second straight World Cup victory.
With only two weeks under its belt, the U.S. Freestyle Team has earned eight total podiums. The next stop for the aerials team is Changchun, China, on Saturday before athletes meet up with the moguls team for the first domestic World Cup of the season, the USANA Lake Placid Freestyle Cup on Jan. 17.
The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team and ski jumping team will participate in two World Cups in Schonach, Germany, with a team event and normal hill Gundersen Saturday and Sunday.
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